We have developed a prototype device that can repair damaged tooth enamel by applying a synthetic material and hardening it using laser technology.
The device, which lead researcher Professor Animesh Jha describes as looking ‘a bit like a water pistol’, delivers a synthetic calcium phosphate material directly to the tooth where it is hardened using pulsed laser technology.
It was developed with Medical Technologies Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) proof of concept funding.
The development process
Professor Animesh Jha, an expert in materials science, first developed the technique in an early IKC proof of concept project using bench top lasers and novel biomineral coatings. This research was supported via a co-development of ‘cold’ pulsed laser by Professor Tom Brown’s group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews in a collaborative Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded programme.
The work led to an international research partnership and two further projects: the first, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, focused on optimising the coating materials and advanced cold pulsed laser for dental enamel restoration. The second, an EU-funded Marie-Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships & Pathways project (IAPP), focused on developing the integrated materials and laser device for clinical use.
The water pistol-inspired design was suggested by Professor Monty Duggal at Leeds’ School of Dentistry. Professor Jha’s team worked with an Italian company, ICMEA, on the device design, and materials were engineered together with Glass Technology Services Ltd in Sheffield, with laser technology from Glasgow-based company MSquared.
Enamel is acellular, so the body can't regenerate it when it becomes damaged. The material that we've developed is very similar to natural enamel and our device enables us to apply it to teeth and harden it off with a cold pulsed laser, all within a couple of minutes.
A new IKC project, launched in 2017, will see the device tested in an in-situ mouth appliance trial in collaboration with the School of Dentistry at Leeds.For the first time, the technology, which has already been tested successfully on bovine and donor human teeth, will be trialled in human volunteers. If successful, a full clinical trial can be planned.
In a related project, Dr Antonios Anastasiou, a post-doctoral researcher in Professor Jha’s team, is using the technology to develop a technique for restoring gums damaged through conditions such as peridontitis. An IKC feasibility grant is enabling Dr Anastasiou to explore ways to use lasers to help re-join damaged gum tissue to the tooth’s hard enamel surface. The periodontal project was funded by Marie-Curie EU Fellowship.